Nau Fall 2023 – Beginning in the fall of 2023, Northern Arizona University will offer free college tuition to students from half of all Arizona families.
The university announced Thursday a new financial aid initiative to help cover tuition for any Arizona student who is enrolled at the university and whose family income is $65,000 or less.
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NAU President Jose Luis Cruz Rivera said it’s a clear message to students and families that he hopes will lead to expanded participation in higher education and “transformational” post-college opportunities for Arizonans.
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“We’re hoping to attract the best talent from Arizona, and we know that’s available everywhere in the state, and the demographics of that talent are very different,” he said.
Guaranteed free tuition is “a message that other universities in Arizona can’t share right now — maybe others will follow our lead,” Cruz Rivera told The Arizona Republic.
According to the university, the Access2Excellence initiative aims to expand college access and increase the number of Arizona graduates to spur future economic growth and social mobility. Although Arizona’s economy is growing, it has the lowest college success rate in the nation.
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“In order for Arizonans to have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the state’s booming economy, we must increase our efforts to ensure that they earn post-secondary credentials at a new high.” salaried jobs,” Cruz Rivera said.
Access to higher education is a key issue for Arizona’s future economy. In 2020, only 28 percent of Arizona’s public high school graduates enrolled at any four-year university, and that rate was even lower for low-income students, according to an analysis by the Arizona Board of Regents.
At the current rate, only 17 percent of Arizona’s current nine-year students will have a four-year degree or higher by 2029, well below the 37 percent of new jobs that require a degree.
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Students must be Arizona residents to qualify. They must meet NAU’s admission requirements and have a family income of $65,000 or less.
Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year to determine their family income.
Freshmen and transfer students from Flagstaff or any state NAU campus are eligible. Current students are not eligible.
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Anika Olsen, NAU’s vice president for enrollment management, said this is the first financial aid program to apply to Flagstaff and state locations. He hopes it will appeal to community college students who wanted to transfer to NAU but didn’t because of the cost. Online students are not graded.
“We’re really hoping to attract students who are very talented but think they’re priced out of educational opportunities,” Olsen said.
Currently, NAU students from low-income families receive significant aid, but sometimes they still have to pay tuition. This program will be expanded so that anyone with a family income of less than $65,000 has no out-of-pocket tuition, and tuition is fully covered by scholarships and financial aid.
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According to Cruz Rivera, NAU still offers financial aid to students with a family income above $65,000, as well as to students with high academic performance.
The university does not cover the costs of the free tuition initiative, but the lowest-income students will cover their costs with a state-promised program. Mandatory annual fees are currently approximately $1,250 for in-state students.
Students also have to cover housing and other expenses, some of which may require taking out student loans.
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The initiative covers a broader pool of students than the state’s new pledge program, which guarantees full tuition and fees at one of three public universities if their family income is typically $27,000 or less. if less, also other qualifications.
NAU isn’t the first university to do this—many public and private universities in other states offer tuition reimbursement for low-income students, often at a similar income level, below which tuition is guaranteed.
“The Access2Excellence initiative underscores NAU’s commitment to removing barriers that hinder the college aspirations of students from diverse economic, social and cultural backgrounds,” Manson said. “I am thrilled that NAU is leading the way in showing Arizona students and families that college is accessible and affordable — and that this college is a real opportunity for them.”
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NAU does not have a large amount of money to do this work, but rather it regulates how financial aid is administered.
The goal was to reach the lowest-income students first, and then others, to ensure that most of the aid went to the students most in need.
Cruz Rivera said staff spent months analyzing how NAU uses more than $400 million in federal, state, philanthropic and institutional aid to award students each year based on financial need and academic performance.
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“We realized that by making small changes to the way we pay financial aid, we could make a bold statement and make sure that all students with family incomes under $65,000 are eligible.— Free Experience at NAU “, he said.
Instead of waiting for students to apply, fill out the FAFSA and then find out how much financial aid they will receive, high school students know up front that they can get into NAU tuition-free, he said.
“It’s very clear. It helps with aspirations to go to university, to prepare,” Cruz Rivera said. “We believe that by getting this message out, it will increase the participation and diversity of the students who come to NAU.”
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Officials have developed models based on recent and future class makeups and financial resources to try to determine how best to spend various scholarship sources for low-income students, Olsen said. The family income limit for free tuition was originally under $65,000, but they realized they could make it work on the average and still help high-income families.
“It’s a lot of modeling and waiting, figuring out the best case, the worst case, and all over the place. We don’t have a whole new bucket of money for this initiative all of a sudden. It’s using the resources we have,” Olsen said. .
Some new students may see a slight reduction in financial aid awards based solely on academic performance as grades are adjusted, but this may be offset by need-based aid.
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Cruz Rivera doesn’t yet know exactly how many students will benefit from free tuition starting in the fall of 2023, but he believes the university has the potential for additional enrollment in Flagstaff and statewide due to declines at NAU in recent years. He expects applications to increase and hopes this translates into more students on campus.
“If it gets to the point where we have to think about caps, we’ve made progress and we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. We feel like we’re in a good place now,” he said.
While free tuition may expand NAU’s reach and strengthen Cruz Rivera’s mission of access, it is not necessarily the answer to the university’s financial challenges of declining enrollment.
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NAU saw an 11 percent drop in enrollment from fall 2017 to fall 2021 and projected a 3.2 percent drop in enrollment, or 858 students, next fall as well. Fewer students means less tuition revenue for university operations.
Cruz Rivera made the entrance a central part of his NAU presidency, which began in June. Earlier this year, the university relaxed its admissions requirements to better align its undergraduate offerings and make NAU accessible to more Arizonans.
NAU will review its statewide footprint, expand programs and finalize its long-term strategic plan, Cruz Rivera said.
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Do you have a story about higher education? Contact the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4282. Follow him on Twitter @alisteinbach. Northern Arizona University has updated its admissions standards to make it easier for more students to enter the institution.
Arizona’s three public universities currently require credit in 16 core secondary classes and a 3.0 GPA for guaranteed admission. About 50,000 Arizona students in 18 percent of the state’s high schools don’t have access to all of these courses, according to NAU.
“What we’ve found is that a large percentage of high school students haven’t applied to university yet because they don’t think they qualify,” NAU President Jose Luis Cruz Rivera said.
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Under NAU’s new admissions test program, only 14 core courses are required for the incoming class of fall 2023 to better align with undergraduate offerings and graduation requirements.
“So what we’re really trying to do is remove a barrier that is out of students’ control and has no predictive value for college success,” Cruz Rivera said.
Arizona State University and the University of Arizona said they do not intend to follow NAU’s updated admissions standards guidelines at this time.
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NAU is also exploring new financial aid strategies and strengthening partnerships with high schools and colleges.